A potentially scalable method for the harvesting of hMSCs from microcarriers

Alvin W. Nienow, Qasim A. Rafiq, Karen Coopman, Christopher J. Hewitt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of hMSCs for allogeneic therapies requiring lot sizes of billions of cells will necessitate large-scale culture techniques such as the expansion of cells on microcarriers in bioreactors. Whilst much research investigating hMSC culture on microcarriers has focused on growth, much less involves their harvesting for passaging or as a step towards cryopreservation and storage. A successful new harvesting method has recently been outlined for cells grown on SoloHill microcarriers in a 5L bioreactor [1]. Here, this new method is set out in detail, harvesting being defined as a two-step process involving cell 'detachment' from the microcarriers' surface followed by the 'separation' of the two entities. The new detachment method is based on theoretical concepts originally developed for secondary nucleation due to agitation. Based on this theory, it is suggested that a short period (here 7min) of intense agitation in the presence of a suitable enzyme should detach the cells from the relatively large microcarriers. In addition, once detached, the cells should not be damaged because they are smaller than the Kolmogorov microscale. Detachment was then successfully achieved for hMSCs from two different donors using microcarrier/cell suspensions up to 100mL in a spinner flask. In both cases, harvesting was completed by separating cells from microcarriers using a Steriflip® vacuum filter. The overall harvesting efficiency was >95% and after harvesting, the cells maintained all the attributes expected of hMSC cells. The underlying theoretical concepts suggest that the method is scalable and this aspect is discussed too.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-88
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Engineering Journal
Early online date11 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. Open access under CC BY licence.

Funding: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC; UK) Bioprocessing Research Industries Club (BRIC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC; UK) and Lonza GmbH (Cologne, Germany).


  • agitation
  • cell harvest
  • downstream processing
  • human mesenchymal stem cells
  • large scale processing
  • microcarriers


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